"My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it . . . t
he presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display."
Writing is neither a team nor a contact sport. Well, unless you count smacking your head repeatedly against a computer screen when you get stuck. My point is that the grueling, day to day act of pounding out words to complete a novel is necessarily a singular activity. Yeah, I know. That's kind of a given.
So, how does brainstorming fit into this equation? Usually at the beginning of the novel writing process.
First, a writer comes up with their own idea for a story. Maybe a character they've been noodling. Or a theme they want to explore. Something that the writer is passionate about. These are all story seeds, and it's the seeds that are brought to the brainstorming table to sort through.
When you've got some ideas to discuss, then you call your brainstorming buddies. Note: this isn't an entire tribe of yes-men to hold your hand and sing Kumbaya. This is two, maybe three writerly friends who you feel comfortable with sharing your seeds. They'll tell you what's good, what's bad, and what's ugly about your ideas, and then add their own. This is where you work out the general idea of a story, discussing it until you feel like you can take the ball and run with it.
Then you do. You run away. You write. Alone. If the story bunches up some in the middle, then another, smaller brainstorming session can be held. Otherwise, it's you and the words. The danger for writers, especially newbies, is to groupthink novels to death.
The Dangers of Too Much Brainstorming
- It sucks the voice right out of you.
- It stretches the story into awkward shapes that don't belong to the writer but to the collective.
- It takes away risk, turning the words to a grey meh.
- The pressure to conform increases anxiety in the writer.
- The presence of others can even stifle creativity.
So go ahead and toss your ideas around with writerly buddies, but just like everything else in life, partake of this pastime in moderation.